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A history of American juke-joints

Related: jukebox - nightclub - "race music" - American music

Exterior of a juke joint in Belle Glade, Florida, photographed by Marion Post Wolcott in 1944


Juke joint (or jook joint) is the vernacular term for an informal establishment featuring blues music, dancing, and alcoholic drinks, primarily operated by African American people in the southeastern United States. The term "juke" is believed to derive from the Gullah word joog, meaning rowdy or disorderly. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juke_joint [Mar 2006]

There are two words or terms, that are closely related today, namely juke-joint (a small inexpensive café mainly in the southern States) and juke-box (an automatic coin-op phonograph). Which of the two terms did in fact come first? The term juke-joint did undoubtedly come first, because it was brought into the daily language in the South by the Afro-Americans decades before the first coin-op phonograph was demonstrated to the northern mainly Caucasian population in San Francisco in 1889 and after that in most of the big northern cities. The words juke and jook, which are both corruptions of the ancient Elisabethan jouk, were according to reliable sources brought to America by the not quite voluntarily immigrated colored workers, that originated from the western part of Africa, and the word should mean 'to dance' or 'act wildly' in the evening after a long hard days work in the (cotton) fields. The small cafés and public houses, which were reserved for blacks only in the southern States, were usually named jukes or juke-joints. The cafés were from the very beginning normally located next to the cotton fields and owned by the white first or second generation immigrated citizen and owner of the fields. In few cases, however, the café could also be leased to a long-time loyal old labourer, who could no longer work as hard as before. -- http://juke-box.dk/gert-juke-joints.htm by Gert J. Almind

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